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The Telengana Peasant Armed Struggle, 1946-51 —^
20 years ago, Acharya Vinoba Bhave.launched his bhoodan movement at Pochampalli, a village in Telengana where communists had carried on an armed struggle for five years around an agrarian programme. Bhoodan was to be the sarvodaya answer to the communist challenge on the land problem and , was meant to achieve what legislative action was not expected to do. The minuscular peasant revolt in Naxalbari (1967) was a reminder • that neither the sarvodaya approach nor the legislative process (in which cotmnunists had begun participating after abandoning the tactic of armed struggle) had solved the agrarian problem in India. There have been many Naxalbaris since. The Maoist perspective in the Indian communist movement, which began with the Telengana struggle, has resulted in an extra-spectrum trend which rejects the parliamentary system and seeks to achieve the people's democratic revolution through people's war linked to an agrarian programme. The re-emergence of the Macist trend in the Indian communist movement marks the return of the "Telengana line". The 25th anniversary of the Telengana armed struggle last year fourid the Indian communist movement indulging in polemics on the nature and significance of the struggle. The main controversy was over the circumstances attending the withdrawal of the struggle in 1951. This article seeks to place the 'Telengana line' in perspective with particular reference to its relevance to the split in the Indian communist movement in 1964 and again in 1968.
THE Telengana peasant armed struggle was the first independent trend in the Indian communist movement. Communists of the Telugu-speaking tracts of south-central India, now Andhra Pradesh, organised and led it, often in defiance of the central leadership of the Communist Party of India and of the international communist movement. Until 1953, the Telugu-speaking people lived in a contiguous area, a part of which was in the erstwhile Hyderabad state, a multilingual entity, and another in the erstwhile Madras Presidency (later Madras state), also a multilingual entity. The Telugu districts of Madras state were constituted into the Andhra state in 1953. The Andhra state, together with the Telengana region (as the Telugu districts of Hyderabad state were known) were grouped together to create the present Andhra Pradesh in 1956, breaking up the Hyderabad state. The first communist groups came into being in Telengana 'in 1939-40. They were illegal and functioned through the Andhra Mahasabha, a mass organisation to promote the cultural and political interests of the Telugu-speaking people of the Hyderabad state. In 1943, the leadership of the Andhra Mahasabha passed into communist hands. From 1944 on, communists were organising militant struggles against landlordism and feudal exploitation.1 The Communist Party of India's zig-zags during the Second World War (the switch from the imperialist war to the people's war slogan in 1942 and the consequent support to the British war effort and the reluctance to support the demand -for transfer of power) did not permit its Hyderabad unit to demand the end of Nizam's rule, the abolition of landlordism in the state and the implementation of a radical agrarian programme.^ A change in the CPI's policy, coinciding with the post-war upsurge in the country, enabled the local unit to' plan more radical and more militant struggles. In Telengana, the contradiction between the mass of the peasants and feudalism was most advanced in 1945-46. The peasant movement was initially organised around simple demands against eviction and oppressive feudal extortions but it quickly escalated when it met with the combined repression of the landlords and the Nizam's governmental machinery. Peasant resistance to the attacks of organised hoodlums, police and the Nizam's military took the form of armed clashes, which eventually were to swell into a movement for the overthrow of Nizam's rule.
STRUGGLE AGAINST NIZAM
By mid-1946, the movement had acquired the characteristics of a national liberation struggle to free the people from the rule of the" Nizam and the
feudal order. In the adjoining Andhra area (i e, the Telugu districts of Madras Presidency) the CPI had an efficient organisation and a well-trained cadre but in Telengana it was not so well established and the people of Telengana had no tradition of political participation. Yet the CPI found itself leading an armed struggle in Telengana that was to last five years.2 The Telengana region had been under a medieval feudal monarchy while the Andhra area was directly under British rule and had the ryotwari land tenure system. The contradiction between the peasants and the landlords had become very sharp in Telengana while it had been blunted ^in the Andhra area. Sscondly, the nationalist movement in British India had been led by the national bourgeoisie, whereas in Te.leng_ana the communists were in effective control of the small nationalist movement. .Finally, the decision of the Nizam to refuse accession to India after Independence (1947) placed him in direct contradiction to the new Indian government. This factor made it possible for the communist-led movement in Hyderabad, state to take on the character of a national liberation struggle, with the support of the national bourgeoisie leadership of the rest of the country, until Indian forces marched into the state to force its merger with the Indian Union.
Jupe 9, 1973
In 1946, the Hyderabad state unit of the CPI began campaigning for an interim government in the state as the intermediate step towards breaking up the multilingual unit and merger of the various linguistic areas comprising it with the respective linguistic areas outside. This was the genesis of the Andhra communists' slogan of "Visalandhra' (an extended Andhra) to unify the Telugu-speaking people into a single, unilingual state. In the Andhra region, the CPI campaigned for an anti-feudal, democratic programme around the slogan of "People's Rule in Visalandhra" at the 1946 general elections* and launched a limited struggle in the area to link up with the upsurge in Telengana where the Andhra Maiiasabha had become a united mass organisation of all the anti-Nizam forces. When the British formally announced in June 1947 their decision to abdicate power in the subcontinent, the CPI found itself confused about the meaning of the transfer of power to take place on August 15. It settled for a non-class approach to the Congress leadership that was to take power from the British as a result oi a-compromise. At the inaugural meeting of the Cominform iiv September, Zhdanov made his famous speech characterising the world as being divided into two hostile camps and calling on communists to lead movements to oppose the imperialist plans for expansion and aggression.4 Tndian communists misread this to mean that in every non-socialist country the bourgeoisie had gone over to the camp of Anglo-United States imperialism and this new alignment of forces had created two camps in irreconcilable conflict in everyone of these countries. So India's independence was branded fake. Indian communists went - further than Zhdanov and embraced the views of Eduard Kardelj, a Yugoslav participant at the Cominform meeting. Kardelj had argued that democratic and socialist revolutions must "intertwine"' and communists must attack not only the big bourgeoisie but the bourgeoisie as a whole. Adopting this Titoite line, the CPI concluded that India was already a capitalist country (and not a semi-feudal, semi-capitalist one) and that the party should intertwine the two stages of revolution into a single stage through an attack on the entire Indian capitalist class. This was the essence of the party's thesis at its second congress in- February-March 1948. It was a swing from right opportunism to left sectarianism.5 The Andhra communists had already taken the Telengana peasant movement 1026
ECONOMIC AND'POLITICAL WEEKLY to the level of partisan armed struggle. these were fast maturing. Only pro"Telengana means communists and com- longed armed resistance as in Telenmunists mean Telengana" thundered gana would bring about the needed B T Ranadive, the party's General Secre- situation.* Andhra communists had invoked Mao tary-to-be at the second congress which "New Democracy" to deposed the reformist P C Joshi. The Tse-tung's Justify their strategy of a • two-stage Telengana armed struggle was a few months old and it was not ^until the revolution in India. The new leaderTelengana delegates had attacked the . ship of the CPI rejected the Andhra failure of the new political thesis to thesis but the significance of this epirealise the "revolutionary significance" sode has not been adequately realised in India or outside. The first recorded of the struggle to the "present epoch of maturing democratic revolution in debate on the legitimacy of Mao TseMarxismIndia" that the new leadership appeared tung's theories as part of Leninism took place between the to support the struggle seriously. The second congress called for similar strug- Andhra communists and the new CPI The ultra-revolutionary gles in other parts of the country and leadership'. for working class movements in support Ranadive, in his polemic against his country-cousins leading the Telengana of Telengana, all ultimately leading to armed struggle, suggestively bracketed armed insurrection. The new albeit Mao with Tito and Browder and formally, because it might hasten the denounced him as a charlatan (",.. working class general-strike-cum-armedsome of Mao's formulations are such insurrection which it had' banked that no communist party can accept upon in the post-war revolutionary them; they are in contradiction of the situation. world understanding of the communist parties," he said).7
In May 1948, Andhra communists challenged the second congress thesis and its reliance on the general-strike- ' cum-insurrection weapon. The Andhra thesis said that the Indian revolution, in many respects, differed from the classical Russian Revolution and that it was to a great extent similar to the Chinese Revolution. The perspeetiv* should therefore be that of a dogged resistance and prolonged civil war in the form of an agrarian revolution culminating in the capture of political power by the democratic front rather than a general strike and an. armed uprising. Therefore, where a good proportion of the masses were with the party (in Andhra, Kerala and Bengal) it was time to think in terms of guerilla warfare (the "Chinese way") against the military onslaughts of the Nehru government bent on liquidating the party. Armed guerilla resistance had to be developed in several parts of the country and these areas were to be converted into liberated areas with their own armed forces and state apparatus, later, towns were to be liberated by the armed forces from the liberated areas. The Andhra thesis also advocated a united front, which included the rich peasantry and the middle bourgeoisie as the allies of the proletariat in the people's democratic revolution, and asserted that such a wide front of armed struggle could take shape under the. leadership of the party and that the objective conditions for realising
•While the CPI's understanding was based on a wrong interpretation of the Europe-centred Zhdanov line, the Cominform did not seem to have a clear line yet for former colonies like India when Ranadive embarked on his anti-Mao polemic. The Chinese Revolution had not been brought to an end. It, was not until 1950 that the Cominform endorsed the formulations of Mao's "New Democracy". A Soviet academician, E M Zhukov, advocated a four-class alliance in colonies and semi-colonies.8 A little later, Academician V Balabushevich hailed the Telengana struggle as the "first attempt at creating people's democracy'' in India and the "harbinger of agrarian revolution".9 This was vindication of the Andhra leadership's "Telengana line".
' SUPPORT FHOM CHINA
Support to the Andhra leadership came also from the Communist Party of China within weeks of the formal proclamation of the People's Republic of China (October 1, 1949). Liu Shao-chi declared in Peking in November 1949 that "the road of Mao Tsetung" was the path for other colonial countries and armed action was the main form of struggle whenever and wherever possible.^0 A few days thereafter, an editorial in the Cominform journal endorsed the most crucial of formulation of Liu's declaration: The experience of th© victorious national liberation struggle of the
"ECONOMIC AND" POLITICAL WEEKLY
Chinese people teaches that the working class must unite with all classes, parties and groups, and organisations willing to fight the imperialists and their hirelings to form a broad nation-wide united front, headed by the working class and its vanguard ... the Communist Party.11 But when it came to the form of struggle, the Cominform mentioned China, Vietnam, Malaya and "other countries" as examples of how armed struggle was becoming the "main form of struggle" oL the national liberation movement in many colonies and dependent countries. Then it listed Vietnam, South Korea, Malaya, the Philippines, Indonesia and Burma as countries engaged in armed struggle, but not India which was mentioned merely as a country with "sham in-" dependence".111 With the Cominform debunking Ranadive, the Andhra leadership found itself heading the party. Rajeswara Rao took over • as General Secretary in May-June 1950. The Telengana line of peasant v partisan warfare triumphed inside the CPI, but Moscow's intervention, was to suppress this trend later. The new. CPI leadership worked out a political line which briefly meant: (1) Rejection of the programmatic understanding of the second congress, subsequently elaborated in what was called the "Tactical Line" by the leadership; (2) Rejection of the thesis -of the single stage revolution, i e, the intertwining of the two stages of the Indian revolution into one; (3) Rejection of the idea- that the entire bourgeoisie, including the rich peasantry, had become enemies of the people's democratic revolution; (4) Upholding of the concept of the Chinese path for the Indian revolution which meant developing Jelenganatype agrarian struggle extensively wEerever possible.13 The new Central Committee, on June 1, 1950 highlighted the role of armed struggle for securing . national liberation and claimed that preconditions for starting such struggles were already there. But this did not mean that armed struggle could be launched immediately anywhere and under any conditions. The accent was on armed . guerilla warfare linked to an agrarian programme wherever the party's strength permitted it. The Central Committee pledged to extend the Telengana struggle to other parts of India. It wanted to put the party on the rails of armed struggle in the countryside and rebuild the movement
in the cities and working class centres was favourable for armed partisan on the basis of the new line and tactics. struggle. The Telengana struggle, the committee thought, was the beginning of the liberation struggle and it was ENTRY OP INDIAN ARMY demonstrating that the Indian revoluIn the meantime, the entry of Indian armed forces into Hyderabad tion was more like the Chinese revoluand the accession of the state to the tion than the Russian revolution. So the 1 Indian Union had created a new situa- Telengana armed struggle continued. * tion in the Telengana struggle areas. OPPOSITION WITHIN CPI The" Nizam's forces and the private army known as the Razakars had failed Opposition to the Andhra leadership to suppress the armed struggle. But and its new political line came not after the surrender of the Nizam, it only from a group operating from the was a military campaign (with 50,000 party headquarters in Bombay which* to 60,000 Indian troops thrown in) included S A Dange, Ajoy Ghosh and against the communists who had S V Ghate, who had been released developed contiguous liberated zones from prison, but also from the Comcovering 3,000 villages, complete with munist Party of Great Britain. A letter village Soviets, people's courts and from its Political Committee late in people's militia. A formidable modern 1950 traced the CPI crisis to a perarmy was fighting the ill-equipped verse understanding of the Cominsquads. The guerilla squads retreated form journal's editorial (January 27, to the forests, leaving small groups 1950). Armed struggle was not ruled behind to operate in the plains. The out for India but the situation, in the government tried a strategic hamlets CPI and . the country did not hold plan similar to the famous Briggs plan immediate prospects for such a in Malaya. They destroyed about struggle. The CPI could utilise all 2,000 tribal hamlets in the forests and opportunities for legal activities and herded the people into concentration prepare for general elections (a whole camps. This was part of the plan to year and more away!). The letter also isolate the guerilla squads from the called for a change in the CPI leadertribal people inhabiting the forests. ship because the Rajeswara Rao leaderThe guerillas moved to newer forest ship had not been "democratically" areas. elected (a veiled call for revolt against The correlation of political forces in the leadership determined to continue Hyderabad state changed significantly the Telengana armed struggle)!. The with the accession of the state to solution to the party crisis lay in. "full discussion" (which India. Though the state Congress party and unfettered and some other non-communist forces meant armed struggle as a tactic should were not part of all-in front against be abandoned formally). The most the Nizam, each had fought his auto- important references in the letter wer* cracy and there was sympathy for to the CPI's failure to work out a armed struggle even from the masses policy on Korea, where the war was 17 of the people". But with end of the raging, and on the peace movement. Nizam's rule, this support was thinning. This amounted to directing the CPI to The all-India leadership of the CPI step up pressure against Nehru's foreign was divided about continuing the policy. armed struggle after the Nizam's This letter could not have been sent accession to the Indian Union late to the CPI without Moscow's clearance, in 1948. A section of the local party if not a directive from Moscow. It was unit was also for withdrawal of the addressed to the Central' Committee struggle.14 In fact, the present day and was therefore not circulated to the CPI owns up the Telengana struggle ranks. But the Party Headquarter* only upto this point and regards the faction made it a point to circulate it rest of it sectarian and dogmatic and three months after its receipt to exert little more than a terror campaign. It pressure on the Rajeswara Rao leaderthinks the struggle should have been ship on the eve of the December 1950 called off when the Nizam's rule end- Central Committee meeting, which reed.13 organised itself as well as the PolitBut the Visalandhra communist bureau to provide representation to all committee as a whole for continu- the trends. The new leadership deciding the struggle. The big gains of the ed to seek the Soviet party's heh> in Telengana peasantry, especially the one, establishing political-ideological-organimillion acres of land distributed among sational unity in the party. » them, had to be defended and not According, to- P Sundarayya, one of allowed to be snatched away. Secondly, the leaders of the Telengana struggle, the national and international situation differences in the CPI related to two 1027
sets of issues,. One concerned the pro, gramme — tjte- class assessment of the transfer of powef*in 1947, the exact stage of the Indian revolution and the class strategy or alliance for it — and another to tactics the possible path of the Indian revolution Russian or Chinese, the nature of the Telengana armed struggle, the different phases of partisan peasant struggle and the problem of equating these peasant partisan struggles with the armed struggle for political power, etc.18 Meanwhile the pressure from the British party continued. The directives were now explicit and positive, indicating a clear shift in the Cominform line and the Soviet foreign policy requirements. The directives came in the form of answers by R Palme Dutt to five questions on the Indian situation. The peace movement had to be stepped up against Anglo-United States imperialism and for the liberation of Asia. Nehru's foreign policy, it was not a "consistent peace policy" yet and Nehru's opposition to imperialism was "hesitant and limited", should be reappraised in the light of his attitude to the Korean war and to China's admission to the United Nations. Peace and freedom went together and India needed a "broad democratic front" from above on the basis of a common action programme for peace and independence. Finally, armed struggle was not the correct path for India for the present.10 Dutt elaborated this in an interview to visiting Indian communists. He said that as stated in his party's letter to the CPI, "ultimately the revolution in India will and must take the form of armed struggle. It is hardly to be debated''. He had no idea of the exact situation in Andhra and could not say what would be the proper form of struggle there. But if the Andhra unit had adopted correct forms of struggle during the post-second congress period, the party should not have suffered any disruption there. "But from the reports we possess, this does not seem to be true. When on the. top of it, the so-called experience of Andhra is applied mechanically to all over India where the conditions of peasant organisation and the strength of the party were both weaker than in Andhra, the result cannot but be disastrous", he said. Elaborating the concept of armed straggle, Dutt was insinuating that the Telengana struggle was little more than individual or squad terror. (Thereby he was endorsing the friction demanding its suspension.) Armed struggle, he said, was "the higher 1028
form of struggle" and "must bear a mass character", as distinct from the terrorism of individuals or small groups. Again, armed struggle was a "higher state of mass movement, which therefore becomes the pre-requisite". Dutt's concern was with the peace movement because the cold war had replaced class struggle on the Cominform agenda to suit Soviet foreign policy interests. The peace movement presented the CPI with "one of the most important weapons for building a front of all sections of Indian people . . . If we recognise that the building of the National Democratic Front is, the key task for the national liberation struggle, then it should be obvious that the broad front that will emerge out of the peace movement may lay the basis for the National Front for national liberation".20 In sum, Dutt's advice aimed at persuading the CPI to give up the tactic of armed struggle at least for the moment and to seek the broadest possible united front for peace, while the task of building a national democratic front could wait.
said "neither only the Russian path nor the Chinese path but a path of Leninism applied to Indian conditions was the answer". Partisan warfare of the peasantry had to be combined with the other major weapon, that of working class strikes, the general strike and uprising in cities led by detachments of the working class. The statement stressed the leading role of the working class in the worker-peasant alliance. The "Statement of Policy" was the legal or open version of a larger unpublished document prepared by the CPI team to Moscow. It was entitled "Tactical Line". 23 Parts of it were not included in the "Statement of Policy" and the omitted passages dealt with the elaboration of some of the theoretical issues and principles which provided the theoretical-ideological basis for the "Statement of Policy" and included details of the discussions between the CPI team and the Soviet party commission headed by Stalin. Neither of the documents referred to armed revolution as part of the im'mediate programme. The "Tactical Line" cautioned the party against "premature uprisings and adventurist actions" and yet thought it wrong to lay down that armed struggle in the form of partisan warfare should be resorted to in every spacific area only when the movement in all parts of the country rose to the level of an uprising. This was because the uneven levels of mass consciousness in a vast country like India would not permit peasant movements of the same tempo everywhere. On the contrary situations demanding armed partisan warfare might arise in several areas. For instance, when in a big and topographically suitable area the peasant movement rose to the level of seizure of land, the question of effective ^seizure and defending the land seized would become a burning one and "partisan warfare in such a situation, undertaken on the basis of a genuine mass movement and firm unity... if correctly constructed and led, can have a rousing and galvanising effect on the peasant masses in all areas and raise their own struggle to a higher level".
SWITCH TO PARLIAMENTARISM
The British advice strengthened the faction opposed to the Telengana armed struggle, but the CPI crisis continued until a top-level delegation clandestinely visited Moscow early in 1951 for consultations with the Soviet party leadership. The CPI t«am comprised two Andhra leaders (C Rajeswara Rao and M Basavapunniah) who were directly leading the Telengana struggle and two leaders opposed to it (S A Dange and Ajoy Ghosh). The Soviet party commission comprised Stalin, Malenkov, Molotov and Suslov. The main conclusion on the issues concerning the programme were incorporated in the Draft Programme published in 1951.=L The draft said the state that came into being with the transfer of power was the same old imperialist slate and the Congress government installed with the consent of imperialism had pledged to protect the British interests in India. It rejected the second congress understanding that the entire bourgeoisie including the rich peasantry were outside the pale of the people's democratic front. It recognised the possibility of winning over all the Indian bourgeoisie, barring some individuals and groups of big bourgeoisie: It rejected the theory of the intertwining of the two stages of revolution. As for tactics, an accompanying document, "Statement of Policy",22
The proximity of the general elections seems to have made it expedient for the new CPI leadership to withhold publication o'f the "Tiactical Line". Through the "Statement of Policy" the CPI was trying to project the image of a party that had virtually abjured violence and was settling for parlia-
ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY mentarism. The leadership feared that some of the formulations in the "Tactical Line" might prevent the party regaining its legality in states where it hladi been banned (Travancore-Cochin and Hyderabad). Another reason could be that a more explicit reference to the tactic of combining peasant partisan warfare with urban insurrection might provide the extremist elements in the party arguments for opposing the switch to parliamentarism. The "Draft Programme" and the "Statement of Policy" formalised Moscow's decrees on strategy and tactics for India. The "Draft Programme" was published by the Cominform journal immediately after it was released in India and the "Statement of Policy" within a fortnight of its adoption. Rajeswara Rao had already resigned as General Secretary and Ajoy Ghosh had replaced him when the Central Committee met in May 1951 to hear about the Moscow discussions. The May 1951 Central Committee meeting decided to call off the Telengana struggle and asked its Andhra members to ascertain from the partisan leaders whether they could hold on until the party negotiated with the government on the terms for withdrawal, which included the following: land in possession of the tenants should not be taken away to be handed over to landlords; all warrants against the struggle leaders should be withdrawn; all prisoners released; and the ban on the CPI lifted. The resolution made clear that the Telengana struggle was not started and was not being continued to overthrow the Nehru government, but to end feudal exploitation. It directed the newly-constituted Polibureau to review the Telengana problem and adopt all ways and measures to make the struggle successful.2* Taking advantage of this resolution, the Ravi Narayan Reddy faction in Telengana and the party Headquarters faction at the all-India level launched a campaign for withdrawal of the struggle even before the lerms of withdrawal could be secured, and to eliminate the fighting cadre from all levels of leadership. It began claiming that the Central Committee had already called off the struggle and that what was going on in Telengana was mere individual or squad terror. The open campaign by this faction forced the Politbureau to appoint a threemember negotiating committee. Ajoy Ghosh, the new General Secretary, even threatened to disown the struggle if it was not' withdrawn immediately. Maddukuri Chandrasekhara Rao, an Andhra leader, retorted that in that case the struggle leadership would be forced to disown him and his leadership. The struggle leaders were still talking to the partisan leaders in the forest bases when the government told the negotiating committee that declarations favouring withdrawal of the struggle were of no avail unless the leaders in charge of the struggle announced its withdrawal. At the May 1951 Central Committee meeting, the Andhra members agreed that the struggle could not last long even as a partial partisan struggle in defence of land and should be withdrawn after securing the most favourable terms. They had supported the Central Committee resolution in this spirit. As Sundarayya rightly records, the dissensions that had plagued the party during the last two years caused "irreparable harm to the Telengana armed struggle". There was the vicious propaganda that the movement in Telengana was nothing but individual terrorism or squad actions and that there was no mass participation. The Central Committee's resolution was based on the new programme and a new tactical line, but in complete contradiction to it the Politbureau issued a public statement condemning individual terror and squad actions and this helped the slander campaign against the Telengana struggle.55 Also, the releasing to the Press of the part of the Central Commitee resolution expressing readiness for a negotiated settlement led the government to believe that the movement was about to collapse and the party was about to surrender. This hardened the government's position.
WITHDRAWAL OF STRUGGLE
was settling for parliamentarism. The following agreed conclusions were drawn by the party about Telengana at the end of the struggle, according to Basavapunniah who was among its leaders: (1) It is a crime to characterise the struggle as individual terrorism or squad terrorism. (2) It was correct to have continued the Telengana armed struggle and guerilla struggle even after the Indian troops entered Hyderabad, and to defend land and other%democratie gains, but it was not correct to have had as the aim "a people's liberation war for capturing political power and overthrowing the Central Congress Government''. (3) It was wrong to confuse or characterise every struggle of the peasantry or other exploited masses, whenever they are forced to use v^eapons, and especially peasant guerilla struggles, as the final revolutionary struggle or as the beginning of the final revolutionary struggle or as an intermediate part of such struggles. (4) There was the danger of the movement degenerating into terroristic actions by squads and getting isolated from the masses. How long the armed peasant guerilla struggle should be continued, and when it should be withdrawn, depended on the ebb and flow of the movement; (5) Stalin and the Soviet party leaders had said that it seemed difficult to continue the Telengana struggle further, that is, during the first part of 1951 and it was unfortunate that the Indian communist movement was not in a position to continue it. But they had left 'it entirely to the CPI to decide whether it should be continued or withdrawn; (6) It was not possible to mechanically choose between the Chinese path and the Russian path and it was necessary to learn frorp the experience of both.27 The struggle was called off late in October 1951, but the struggle leaders could explain what was virtually a fait accompli to the partisans in the forests only later. A conference of party leaders and guerilla fighters of the Amarabad forest region jvas held in the third week of November and it approved the decision to withdraw the struggle. The underground leadership announced a reconstituted committee for Telengana with about 25 members drawn from the underground cadre as well as those released or still in prison. But General Secretary Ajoy Ghosh, without consul1029
Late in October 1951, A K Gopalan, on behalf of the Central Committee and the Andhra Committee, announced the withdrawal of the struggle. Though the government had rebuffed the negotiators, the CPI leadership was obliged to "advise the Telengana peasantry and the fighting partisans to stop all partisan actions" and to mobilise the entire people to rout the Congress at the general elections.26 It was tame surrender because the party gave the peasantry no guarantee about protecting their hard-won gains. The withdrawal of the struggle meant surrender of all the guerilla zones and liberated villages to the Indian army, and with it, the other gains. The CPI
June 9, 1973 ting the underground leadership, constituted an "Election Committee" and authorised it to function as the de facto State Committee. The underground committee asked the cadre to ignore this body except for election purposes. While the underground committee continued to guide the underground cadre, the Election Committee got the support of the open cadre. However, the underground cadre worked for the success of the People's Democratic Front through which the illegal party contested the elections.
LESSON OF THE ELECTIONS
ECONOMIC ANtf POLITICAL WEEKLY
summed up the agreed conclusions and a united Telengana committee was formed to lead the movement.28 The government's hunt against the underground squads did not stop even after the elections and arrests and prosecutions continued. The government's argument was that arms had not been surrendered and therefore the hunt could not be relaxed. As the logical step to the withdrawal of the struggle, the CPI decided to surrender arms. The question here is: did the 1951 documents (on programme and tactics) warrant the withdrawal of the Telengana struggle? The present-day Maoist contention is that they did not and that the withdrawal was an act of betrayal by "revisionists" who wanted to take the party into the vortex of parliamentary politics by entering the 1952 general elections.29 In their view, the Telengana armed struggle could have continued as a struggle to protect the gains of the peasantry, though not as a struggle for state power. What followed the withdrawal was the quiet abandonment of the perspective of armed struggle because the party settled for peaceful constitutionalism, and eventually opted for peaceful transition to socialism. One of the issues of controversy on the Telengana struggle is the Soviet attitude to its withdrawal. Rajeswara Rao, now General Secretary of the CPI, contends that the Soviet party and Stalin did not support the struggle until it was withdrawn.30 But Sundarayya, the CPI(M)'s General Secretary, contends that the CPSU and Stalin thought that it was unfortunate that the struggle could not be defended or continued arid that, therefore, the time had come for its withdrawal. It was, however, for the CPI leadership to decide when exactly and on what terms it should be withdrawn and how long it had to be continued to secure suitable terms.31 Whether the Soviet leadership supported the struggle till the end or not, its withdrawal had more than its tacit support.
Over 2,000 CPI cadres were still in jail when the elections took place. Over 1,000 were underground. The People's Democratic Front could run candidates in only 42 of the 98 constituencies in Telengana. The extent of the CPI victory is underlined by the fact 36 of the 45 candidates running under the PDF banner were elected. In addition 10 Socialist candidates that had the PDF's support also won. The Congress won 41 seats but 25 of these were located in Mahboobnagar and Hyderabad districts, where the PDF did not put up candidates. In the 'Red' district of Nalgonda, the PDF made a clean sweep- of all the 14 seats; in Warangal, another 'Red' district, the PDF won 11 of the 14 seats; in Karimnagar it won 10 of the 15 seats. Thus 35 of the 45 seats the PDF won were located in those three districts where the CPI had conducted the Telengana armed struggle. Of the 2.5 million votes polled, the PDF got approximately a third, while the Congress, which had contested everyone of the seats, could only poll about the same proportion of votes. It was unmistakable that communist gains in Telengana were most spectacular precisely in those areas where the CPI had led the peasant partisan warfare or guerilla squad actions, inviting massive police and military repression. If the vote meant anything at all, it was a vindication of the Andhra communist line of Maoist armed struggle. It was convincing refutation of the vicious campaign that the Telengana armed struggle was isolated from the masses and was sectarian, anarchist and terrorist in character. Even after the elections in January 1952, the cadre in Telengana continued to be divided. About 25 leaders, from the fighting areas as well as those in the open, met in February 1952 for a week to discuss the differences. Ajoy Ghosh, who attended the meeting 1030
resolutely urged the seizure of power through armed struggle, that is, the path of the Chinese people, who were guided in their victories by Mao's Thought. "Some revisionist chieftains, however, feverishly pushed ahead with the revisionist parliamentary road resulting in doing tremendous harm to the Indian revolution." In 194651, base areas of armed struggle were established in Telengana where landless and poor peasants were aroused to seize land by armed struggle "and become the banner of the Indian plople's revolutionary struggle of the time". The commentary said though the Indian revisionists described peasant armed struggles as adventurism and individual terrorism, the Telengana struggle grew under the radiance of Mao Tse-tung's Thought. In a party document in September 1950 and an open document in 1951, they villified the Chinese people's revolutionary war led by Chairman Mao and had put forward the theory of India's exceptionalism, hysterically preventing the Indian people from taking the road of Chinese revolution. Long after the Telengana "sell out" and after many setbacks the Indian peasants had realised the "futility of the parliamentary path and the need for armed struggle", it Said. It might be well to record here that there was even a veiled Chinese suggestion in June 1950 that the Telengana armed struggle might have been illtimed. The timing of this suggestion (June 1950) is significant. The Andhra leadership had just taken over from B T Ranadive, but the Chinese party seemed to have some reservations about the Andhra leadership's line of peasant armed struggle. The suggestion came in the form of a reply to a reader from the editor of the People's Daily, the CPCs chief organ. After referring to communist peasant warfare in China, the editor declared that characteristics of the Chinese revolution "can under certain historical conditions become the common characteristics of all revolutionaries of other colonial and semicolonial countries". He quoted from Liu Shao-chi's opening address to the Peking World Federation of Trade Unions conference on the desirability of armed struggle on the part of "many colonial and semi-colonial peoples'' and from the Cominform journal's editorial of January 27. Quoting . a statement by B T Ranadive (when he was the General Secretary o£ the CPI) fully endorsing the conclusions of this editorial and the lessons of the Chinese revolution as the infallible guide for
Though the Communist Party of China now charges "Indian revisionists with betraying Telengana", it is silent on the Soviet and Cominform roles. An NCNA commentary on August 2, 1967 noted that for a long time the Indian communist movement had witnessed an intense struggle between two lines. The revolutionaries had
June 9, 1973 national democratic state was possible. The "national democracy" concept added a new dimension to the CPI's continuing struggle for a new programme to replace the 1951 document. As Nehru's domestic policies shifted to the right and tension grew on the Sino-Indian border, the attitude to the Indian bourgeoisie continued to be the central issue in the CPI debate which took a predictable form: national democracy versus people's democracy. The right-wing of the CPI, which had the Soviet backing contended that India's ^bourgeois democracy could metamorphose into a national democracy. It placed heavy reliance on Soviet aid as the instrument to secure national democracy. The left wing countered this by arguing that the bourgeoisie was compromising with domestic reaction and imperialism. Soviet aid, although necessary, was being used by the bourgeoisie to bargain for more aid from the West. Rival programme drafts were presented at the CPI's sixth congress and the split was averted only by the intervention of Mikhail Suslov, who headed the high level CPSU delegation to the CPI congress. Suslov, anxious to preserve CPI unity, managed to salvage the rightist line and to manoeuvre the congress into shelving the issue of a new CPI programme. The conflict continued behind the scenes until the CPI split in 1964, after which the CPI as well as what later came to be known as the CPI (M) adopted their own programmes. Thus the factors underlying the 1962-63 split date back to the Telengana armed struggle and the differences over it. The real significance of Telengana however lies elsewhere: it was the first application of the Maoist revolutionary model outside China even before the Chinese revolution had triumphed fully and China had proclaimed itself a people's iepublic. Over 20 years later, Naxalbari brought to the fore once again all the theoretical and ideological questions concerning the strategy and tactics of the Indian revolution but in a changed context: the international communist movement had split on issues of ideology and Moscow had ceased to be the sole centre of the international communist movement.
ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY movement in the are,a, see Ravi Narayana Reddy, "Veera Telengana — Na Anubhavakt ' (Telugu), Andhra Pradesh Communist Council, 1972. 2 P Sundarayya, "Telengana People's Struggle and Its Lessons", Communist Party of India (Marxist^ Calcutta, 1972, pp 7-27. Also, Raj Bahadur Gour, et al, "Glorious Telengana Armed Struggle", Communist Party of India, New Delhi, viation?" Communist Party of India (Marxist), Calcutta, 1968. P Sundarayya, "Visaalandhralo Praja Rajyam", Telugu, Vijayawada, 1946, p 6. A Zhdanov, "The International Situation", "For A Lasting Peace, For People's Democracy", Bucharest, November 10, 1947. See Mohan Ram, "Indian Communism — Split within a Split", Vikas, New Delhi, 1969, pp 7-21. P Sundarayya, "Telengana People's Struggle and Its Lessons", op cit, p 392-3. "Struggle for Peoples Democracy and Socialism —- Some Questions of Strategy and Tactics", Communist, Bombay, June-July 1949. E M Zhukov, "Problems of National and Colonial Struggle", Colonial People's Struggle for Liberation", People's Publishing House, Bombay, 1950, pp 1-11. V Balabushevich, "The New Stage in the National Liberation of the People of India", "Colonial People's Struggle for Liberation", op cit, pp 32-59. For A Lasting Peace, For A People's Democracy", December 30, 1949. "Mighty Advance of the National Liberation Movement in the Colonial and Dependent Countries", "For A Lasting Peace, For People's Democracy", January 27, 1950. Ibid. P Sundarayya, op cit, p 387. Ibid, p 392. C Rajeswara Rao,' "The Historic Telengana Struggle'*, Communist Party of India, New Delhi, 1972, pp 31-33. P Sundarayya op cit, p 393-4. PHQ Covering Note to the Letter of the Political Committee of the CPGB to the Communist Party of India, December 6, 1950. P Sundarayya, p 399. "Palme Dutt Answers Questions on India," Crossroads, January 19, 1951. Deven and Bal Krishna, "Talks With R Palme Dutt and Other Impressions Gained Abroad", PHQ Unit, Bombay, January 6, 1951. This was amended and adopted by the All-India Party Conference in October 1951, and later by the third (Madurai) congress of the party in 1953. But it was put in abeyance by the fourth (Palghat) congress in 1956 on the ground that it needed important changes. Statement of Policy of the Communist Party of India, Bombay 1951. 23 "Communist Conspiracy at Madurai", Democratic Research Service, Bombay, 1954. This is the first published version of the secret document and the CPI denounced it is "forgery". But Sundarayya has now vouched for its authenticity, see P Sundarayya, op cit, pp 409-14. 24 Text of resolution in P Sundarayya, op cit, p 417ff. 25 Ibid, p 428. 26 "CPI Advises Stoppage of Partisan Action in Telengana", Crossroads, October 26, 1951. 27 P Sundarayya, op cit, p 415-6. 28 Ibid, p 432. 29 Chandra Pulla Reddy, "Veera ~ Telengana Viplava Poratam1' f (Telugu), Janasakthi Publications, Vijawayada, 1968, P 51. 30 C Rajeswara Rao, "The Histroic Telengana Struggle," op cit, p 34. 31 P Sundarayya, op cit, p 415-16. Also, M Basavapunniah, "Lessons of Telengana Struggle — and the Revisionist Betrayal", Peoples Democracy, November 5, 1972. 32 "An Armed People Opposes Armed Counter revolution," People's Daily, June 16, 1950, People's China, July 1, 1950. 33 P Sundarayya, op cit, p 433. 34 Ibid, p 4. 35 Mohan Ram, "Maoism in India," Vikas, New Delhi, 1971, Chapter 1.
1973. "Why the Ultra- 'Left' De-
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Bihar Alloy Steels
BIHAR ALLOY STEELS, which is setting up a project in Hazaribagh district of Bihar for the manufacture of alloy constructional steels, alloy tool steels and high speed tool steels, expects to commence operations of the plant before the end of May next. Construction of various factory buildings is in progress and machinery is expected to start arriving from July. The directors urged the government to declare Hazaribagh as a 'backward' district on the plea that the employment problem is very acute there. If it is declared a a 'backward'" area, its development would be expedited and the people would have more employment opportunities. Meanwhile, the company's project cost has gone up owing to virtual devaluation of the rupee twice vis-a-vis the various European currencies. Also, increases in import duties on machinery and various other levies on steel, etc, imposed in the last two budgets have added to the cost. The directors say that the exchange rates of various foreign currencies are still in a fluid state and that as soon as the exchange rates are stabilised, the revised project cost would be worked out and arrangements made to -meet the shortfall.
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1 For the most comprehensive account of the Andhra Mahasabha's movement in Telengana and of the beginnings of the communist 22
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